Summer reading could be very different this year as the e-book trend takes hold, writes Jennifer DudleyNicholson
THE printed word is in the midst of a revolution. Digital books are gaining ground on their dog-eared, bookmarked counterparts and experts predict e-books could seriously challenge traditional tomes in just two years.
By 2012 three in every 10 books could be delivered digitally, according to booksellers, and publishers are fuelling the transition by adding more back-catalogue books and story types to the mix.
After a slow start, the e-book revolution is now well under way.
Last year connected e-book readers almost doubled in number to reach 6.5 million, and Gartner predicts more than 15.8 million e-readers will be in use by 2013.
Furthermore, American readers alone splurged $263 million on e-books in the first eight months of 2010, and Australian booksellers claim digital tomes now represent 2 per cent of book sales.
A Borders spokesman says the industry had been surprised by the speed of the transition, which gained ground towards the end of the year.
‘‘ The sales spike started in September and November saw a doubling in sales again,’’ he says.
‘‘ Digital book sales represent 2 per cent of the market right now, but ask me again in the middle of the year and it will be 5 to 10 per cent.
‘‘ In two years’ time — if e-book sales continue at this rate — they will represent 20 to 30 per cent of the book market.’’
The spokesman says several factors are behind the rapid increase. They include the proliferation of e-book readers following the Australian release of the Amazon Kindle in late 2009, lower prices, portability and swift, lowhassle delivery.
‘‘ The beauty of e-book sales is the convenience,’’ he says.
‘‘ If I finish a book at 9.30pm I don’t have to get up, get dressed, get in the car and find a late-night bookstore to get a new novel. And, let’s face it, the kind of stores selling books at 9.30 are not for everyone.’’
Harper Collins publishing director Shona Martyn says electronic books are also tempting readers back to the market through gadgets they already own.
She says many Australians are using mobile phones to screen books, whether that is ‘‘ while they are on the train, waiting at the doctor’s or waiting for a friend’’.
Martyn says the company is hoping to capture these new casual readers by offering short stories in a digital form for the first time.
Nine erotic short stories from Tobsha Learner are now available through the Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Borders stores for 99c each.